The genesis of a Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial
began in August 1985. A group of Vietnamese Americans, who
wanted to find an appropriate way to show their appreciation
to Mississippians who served in that noble struggle to keep
Vietnam a free country, presented the idea to Mr. Roy Martin
and to the staff of the Biloxi Vets Center.
In January 1986, a joint meeting of the Gulf Coast
Vietnam Veterans Association and the Vietnamese Vietnam
Veterans was held. The meeting resulted in a decision to
build a memorial. The idea was presented to then Mayor
Gerald Blessey of Biloxi, a former Vietnam Veteran.
In November 1987, staff of the Biloxi Vet Center,
members of the Gulf Coast Veterans Association and members
of the Gulf Coast Vietnamese community visited the "Moving
Wall" while if was on display in New Orleans, Louisiana.
After visiting the Moving Wall, a decision was made to
bring the Moving Wall to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
For seven days in June 1988 over 30,000 people visited
the Moving Wall when it was on display at Biloxi's Point
Cadet. It became apparent that there was, in fact, a need
for a permanent Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In early November 1988, the MISSISSIPPI VIETNAM VETERANS
MEMORIAL COMMITTEE, INC. (A NON-PROFIT CORPORATION)
was formed and incorporated for the specific purpose of
building a Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
On November 7, 1988, a parcel of land designated for the
memorial site was conveyed to the Memorial Committee by the
City of Biloxi. On this same day, Committee members met with
the Dean and other faculty members of the Mississippi State
University School of Architecture to discuss methods of
generating designs for the Memorial.
In December 1988, the Memorial Committee requested the
assistance of the Mississippi State University School of
Architecture in seeking designs that would adequately
express the themes the Memorial Committee felt should be
present in the Memorial.
In January 1989, the junior level architectural students
presented the Memorial Committee with "Nine Proposals for
Consideration" which consisted of nine models, and a final
design competition was launched using the models to illustrate
the ideas of the Memorial Committee. The Vietnamese community
also presented its design ideas to the Memorial Committee in
the form of a model for consideration.
On March 22, 1989, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a
law authorizing counties and municipalities to make
contributions to the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Committee, Inc.(a non-profit corporation) fur the purpose
of constructing a Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial on
the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Both the House and the Senate
introduced versions of the proposed law and on March 25,
1989, the governor signed a compromise version of
the bill into law! The first $25,000.00 was contributed to
the Memorial Fund by the City of Biloxi. The next major
contribution came from Mr. S. Patrick Kennedy, Continental
Tax Corporation, BlueSprings, Missouri. His significant and
generous contribution of$56,000 was earmarked for
Flags of the Allied Nations who fought in Vietnam
(Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and South
Vietnam) were dedicated and flown at the proposed site
at Point Cadet in Biloxi on Memorial Day, 1989. Before
the year was over however, several unexpected obstacles
arose regarding the proposed site in Biloxi. Primarily,
the land conveyed was not large enough to accommodate the
winning design. Therefore, a decision was made to look for
a new site for the Memorial.
After months of meeting with Mayors and other city
officials along the Gulf Coast, three locations met the
criteria for the Memorial, although one site was favored
over all others. An agreement was made between the Mayor
and City Council of the City of Ocean Springs, and the
Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, to build
the Memorial on more than four acres of property located
on the grounds of the Ocean Springs Civic Center located
on Highway 90 East, on the northeast side of the city. In
May 1994, the agreement was signed by both parties.
In August 1994, a kickoff construction campaign was
launched. The event was held at the Memorial site with
the Honorable Kirk Fordice, Governor of Mississippi and
Honorary Chairman of the MWVMC as the special guest speaker.
On December 28, 1994, a formal proposal was submitted
to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations
Committees for $1.5 million contribution from the State
of Mississippi towards the development and construction of
the Memorial. Although Senate Bill 2640 and House Bill 1703
were both introduced and passed unanimously in February
1995, House Bill 1703 was amended in March 1995 and the
$1.5 million contribution was split between the MWMC and
the War Memorial Commission, each receiving $750,000.00.
A groundbreaking was conducted and celebrated on May 29,
1995, with more than a thousand individuals attending this
memorable occasion. The Honorable Kirk Fordice was the
featured speaker. Other guest speakers included U.S.
Congressman Gene Taylor, State Senator Tommy Gollott,
State Representative Tom King and Ocean Springs Mayor
Soon after this joyous occasion, soil samples and surveys
were completed. Seabeesfrom the Gulfport Naval Construction
Battalion did the initial site preparation by removing tons
of concrete in the parking area and driveway where the
Memorial would be located.
More than eight years after its conception, on the 5th
day of December, 1996, actual construction of the
Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial began.
THE MISSISSIPPI VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
A HEALING, TEACHING, LIVING LEGACY
FOR ALL MISSISSIPPIANS
FOR GENERATIONS TO COME!